Comparing Master’s Degrees

When it comes to making the decision to pursue a graduate degree, choosing the type of degree you want to receive is an important step. At MSP we offer an Master of Arts (MA) in clinical psychology, but there are other Master’s degrees that can prepare individuals for a career in the mental health field, such as a MA in counseling or a Masters of Social Work (MSW). If you’re trying to decide which program is best for your career goals, here are some quick comparisons. 

Content Areas

The first thing to consider is what kind of content you would like to study. Are you looking to gain a wider perspective and explore career options? Or are you hoping to specialize in something specific?  

MA in Clinical Psychology

An MA in clinical psychology program focuses on therapeutic practices. While covering a wide breadth of topics within the field of psychology, all classes are focused on strengthening your skills as a psychotherapist. This includes (but isn’t limited to) psychopathology, psychoanalytic, and training in a variety of different assessments. In addition to preparing you to enter the workforce, a MA in clinical psychology can be a great way to prepare for doctoral level studies and/or to conduct research. 

MA in Counseling

An MA in counseling is specifically designed to prepare students to become mental health counselors. Students in these programs typically choose a specific type of counseling to focus on such as school, career, substance use/addiction, or marriage and families counseling, making these programs highly specialized.


While social workers may have clinical roles and responsibilities these programs typically prepare students to improve the quality of lives for entire populations and communities as opposed to focusing on individuals. Due to this emphasis, the coursework often focuses more on social justice issues and policy.

Scope of Practice​

Next it is important to consider what type of clients you would like to work with and what kind of work you would like to do. 

MA in Clinical Psychology

Psychologists are able to provide care to a wide variety of individuals including those suffering from serious mental health conditions. Psychologists typically provide specific intervention based on the client’s disorder and may work in consultation with other healthcare professionals. Additionally, psychologists are trained to administer a variety of diagnostic tests. 

Psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including in-patient facilities, hospitals, community health care organization, and private practice. 

MA in Counseling

Counselors may play a similar role to a psychologist but are significantly more limited in their scope of practice. Counselors usually provide short term therapy that is geared towards specific life situations. Additionally, they are not trained to administer tests nor make diagnoses. 

Counselors often work in schools and universities, in corporations, or in private practices. 


While social workers with a background in behavioral health may have clinical roles and responsibilities that is not the primary focus of the field. Social workers are often found doing community advancement and advocacy work. There are some MSW programs that will provide more of a focus in clinical skills and lead to a career in therapy, however the education is more general than a counseling or psychology program so students do not learn as many direct therapy techniques during their degree.

Social workers often work in government and non-profit settings. 

Licensure ​

Finally, the biggest difference between all three of these advanced degrees are the licensure that you’d be eligible to receive*. Licensure requirements at the Master’s level vary by state, the requirements listed in this blog reflect those laid out by the state of Michigan. Individuals interested in practicing outside of Michigan should do additional research. 

MA in Clinical Psychology

An MA in clinical psychology prepares graduates to become Limited Licensed Psychologist. Individuals who complete MSP’s program are eligible to apply for the Temporary Limited License in Psychology (TLLP). After completing 2,000 postgraduate hours of supervised clinical experience, and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), graduates may apply for the Permanent Limited License (LLP). 

LLPs are licensed to administer psychological tests and assessments.

LLPs require the supervision of a fully licensed psychologist. 

MA in Counseling

Individuals who complete an MA in counseling are eligible to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. Typically graduates apply to become a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor (LLPC). Following the completion of 3000 hours of clinical work and 100 hours of supervision, graduates may apply to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). 

LPCs are not eligible to administer psychological tests and assessments. 

LPCs do not require supervision. 


Individuals who complete an MSW are eligible to become a Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW). Upon the completion of their program, graduates may apply for the Limited LMSW License. Upon the completion of 4,000 clinical hours completed over at least a two-year period, graduates may apply for the Master’s Social Worker License (LMSW). 

LMSWs are not eligible to administer psychological tests and assessments. 

LMSWs do not require supervision. 

*In order to be eligible for licensure you must have graduated from an accredited program that meets the requirements of the regulatory body. 

Does a MA in Clinical Psychology sound like the right fit for you? Learn more about MSP’s programs here.